Girl staring into space thinking symbolizing what you want to be

What do you want to be when you give up?

posted in: Ikigai | 1

You might think that there is a mistake in the title of this article and it should read, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” But trust me, you read it right the first time. “Give up,” an unexpected twist to a popular question our parents, our teachers, and nearly everyone else ask us when we are just mere children. 

It’s a question of dreams and aspirations. A question that is played out in our childhood imagination for hours upon hours. We lived it in our minds from morning till well after the street lights turned on.

But when the question is flipped on its head, it becomes an ugly reminder that somehow, something quite different happened in life. Instantly you begin to reflect on a somewhat dissatisfying reality. The next question you inevitably ask yourself is, “What happened?”

On the outside, the sarcastic side of you might answer by brushing it off with a shrug, as you tell yourself, “life happened.” On the inside, however, you may then begin to justify your lost dreams by reaffirming to yourself that things just never worked out as planned or worse yet, because of… responsibilities.

Man sitting and thinking about what to do next
Image by sam gain

Nobody wants to be stuck

Perhaps, like so many, you went to school and received a good education before graduating and going into debt. You may have found a job, but not the one you are passionate about. Maybe you got married, and now have kids which are the greatest of responsibilities. You may now find yourself busy every weekend with play-dates, ballet practice, and soccer games. You take care of yourself and your family with everything from baby bibs to bicycles, books, and braces, not to mention and a ton of bills. Bills, bills, bills.

Indeed the scope of your responsibilities has grown over the years and now you may feel somewhat stuck. Unfortunately, so many people do. Sadly, over time the more they tell themselves this, the more they start to believe it. And before too long, somewhere along the way, they lose their motivation and give up on what they really want to do, their passion, their ikigai.

Does any of that sound familiar? Well, if it does ask yourself if you are being unfair. Is it right to blame the challenges life throws at you and use them as an excuse, not to move forward?

No one says it is easy, but know this: there is hope in ikigai.

There is no age to following your ikigai nor are there any rules to pursuing your passion. You may be as old as I am! But so what? You may be older. But so what if you are? So what if you are younger? Age matters not.

From the movie Shawshank Redemption, Andy Dufresne says to Red,

I guess it comes down to a simple choice, really. Get busy living or get busy dying.

Here is some proof of those who worked hard at becoming what they wanted to be despite their age. These people got busy living.

  • Colonel Sanders was 62 years old when he started Kentucky Fried Chicken.
  • Julia Child wrote her first cookbook at 50.
  • Laura Ingalls Wilder published her first “Little House” books at 65, which later became literary classics and the basis for “Little House on the Prairie”
  • Grandma Moses, at 78 years old began a career in painting
  • Charles Darwin at age 50 wrote “On the Origin of Species”
Row of doors symbolising choices
Image by Arek Socha

What do you want to do next?

So you may be thinking, what’s next? Should you revisit your childhood and pursue those dreams once forgotten? What do you want to be from here onward?

Well, the simple answer is, sure! Why not?

Maybe, it is a good idea to revisit your childhood dreams. Maybe that is exactly what you need to truly enjoy a meaningful life, a life of purpose. So, why not indulge yourself for just a moment and think back to the days of your childhood? What was it that you wanted to be when you were all grown up? What was it that inspired you the most? Did you want to be a teacher? A doctor? A movie star?

Now consider the here and now. Does that childhood dream still inspire you today? Set aside the likelihood of it happening suddenly or out of the blue and think about whether or not you would like to do it, or some version of it, from here onward.

Alternatively, if your childhood dream doesn’t inspire you like it used to, then consider what does? Do you have any passions that you would like to pursue? Take a moment to reflect on what makes you passionate these days. What is it that you would love to do? What is it that you want to be?

Understand also, that not everything is tied to finances. Sure, you may want to change your profession, and certainly, that is a possibility. However, your passion may be as simple as learning to cook new recipes, picking up that instrument you put down years ago, or taking on a new adventure. In other words, it doesn’t have to be monetary.

Man backpacking symbolizing what steps you want to take
Image by Hermann Traub

What steps could you take to get you where you want to be?

Once you tune into what it is that excites you, the next thing to do is to take action. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourself, and worse yet, you will wake up one day and ask yourself, what you have been doing with your life.

Of course, by no means do you have to drop all you are doing and jump into a new direction. You will need to prepare yourself. Without any such preparation, you will be leaping into higher risk. So, in other words, “don’t quit your day job.” 

Bills are real. Food, clothes, and shelter are real. Putting those things at risk can be foolish and irresponsible. Instead, approach things a bit slowly if you can. Set aside just a little bit of time each day to acquaint yourself with your passion. Think about doing it in micro-steps at first. Maybe once or twice a week is good enough to start.

First thing is to get online and read more about it. There are tons of videos on YouTube you can access with a simple search. Without any doubt, there are hundreds of social groups and similar communities with like-minded enthusiasts sharing all kinds of experiences. Get in on that. As you become more involved with your passion, you will naturally grow into it and invest more of your time with it.

Be what you want to be

The benefit of doing more of the thing you love is that you will get better and better at doing it, until one day, you wake up and realize that you have become what you wanted to be. Though it may take some time, there will be a time when you say to yourself, “Today is the big day, my first event!” or “My first book!” or “My first 5 mile run!” – I think you get the picture.

Just remember, it does take a commitment and discipline. It is not enough to just get through it or just get it done. In basic terms, if you don’t put the time and effort into what you love, then you will not reap the enjoyment it brings. You need to be true to yourself and for yourself. 

Never should there be a time in your life when you stop striving to happier, more successful, more helpful, or more whatever it is that makes you feel alive! Real dreams evolve over time, and they are now and tomorrow, over weeks, and through the years. They are forever you.

There is no better time to start than now, so what do you want to be when you grow up?

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